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Updated: 8:17 p.m.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s decision to create internships with the Democratic Cloakroom has intensified the resolve of advocates who want to reinstate the House page program.
Former pages were already fired up to lobby Members on Friday for their “Save the Page Program,” and now they are lashing out against the California Democrat’s alternative, which she announced Tuesday. The program will borrow current Congressional interns to work in the Democratic Cloakroom in six-week rotations — a means of letting young people see how the House floor operates at less of an expense.
The page program recruited high school juniors from around the country to assist with the chamber’s day-to-day operations, and its supporters are unhappy that the new initiative will be restricted to college-age interns.
They are also troubled that Pelosi’s staff developed the new internships without their input or the input of sympathetic lawmakers.
Carlos DeLaTorre, a former House page and current junior at Georgetown University, has been leading the efforts to bring back the pages. He said the new initiative undermines the arguments that Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made in August for ending the page program.
“Technological advances and cost seem to be only part of the rationale for making their decision to end the program,” he said. “The decision to put interns back in the cloakroom shows that there is a workforce need in the cloakroom, on the House floor, that only pages can fill.”
Pelosi attested to the value of the young workforce when she made the announcement.
“I know these placements will offer a valuable learning experience for the interns while providing valuable assistance to our Members consistent with the needs of the Cloakroom’s staff,” she wrote in a letter distributed today to House Democrats.
A Pelosi spokesman later said, “Leader Pelosi and House Democrats believe that young people should be given an opportunity to learn and participate in the daily operations of the House.” The new program would create that opportunity without additional expenses because the students would come from the existing pool of interns in Members’ offices, the spokesman added.
DeLaTorre and others in the “Save the Page Program” will lobby lawmakers Friday. They will particularly urge support for legislation sponsored by former pages and current Reps. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) that would direct the House Administration Committee to assemble a nine-member advisory panel to recommend ways to restore the page program with fewer costs and greater efficiency.